Discipline. The one word that has appeared time and again over the past week following Cardiff City’s fine start to life in the Premier League. The textbook defensive performance against Manchester City, followed by a clean sheet against an Everton side still getting to grips to life under a new manager, has left Malky Mackay strongly praising his side’s togetherness and discipline.
It may come as a surprise then to see Peter Odemwingie – a player best known for trying to force a move to QPR in January by driving to the clubs training ground before being turned away – sign for the club in a deal worth around £2.5million.
However, despite Odemwingie’s reputation as a player who can’t work with others, it must be remembered that this is a man who scored 31 times for West Brom in 87 appearances, with a further 17 assists – not a bad record at all for a player who predominantly plays on the wing.
Twenty-six goals in his first two seasons with West Brom turned out to be an impressive return for the versatile attacking player, who cost the club the same fee that they have sold him for. But when a move to QPR led to a well-documented collapse, Odemwingie’s time at West Brom was all-but-over as he made just seven more brief appearances for the club.
Now 32 years of age, the Nigerian international still has plenty to offer, as seen in glimpses in the early stages of last season. In the clash against Southampton (pictured), Odemwingie’s brace helped his club continue their brilliant start to the campaign which would see the Midlands side finish eighth in the Premier League.
Using FourFourTwo’s Stats Zone, it’s clear to see exactly the type of player Odemwingie is – one the Bluebirds have been crying out for, even if fans remain pretty mixed over this deadline day signing. The former Lille and Lokomotiv Moscow player likes to receive passes out wide – in this case on the right wing – before cutting inside and linking play.
Mackay has wingers Craig Noone and Craig Conway as back-up, though it remains to be seen whether he trusts either of these players to put in a shift in the Premier League in the same way as, say, Craig Bellamy currently does, where defensive duties are seen as being equally important as attacking ability. Read more…
What a difference a week can make. Following on from a lacklustre 2-0 defeat at Upton Park on the opening weekend, Cardiff City bounced back with one of the great Premier League upsets, beating Manchester City 3-2 in front of a record home attendance.
Malky Mackay set out with a 4-4-1-1 formation, with Kim Bo-Kyung and Fraizer Campbell dropping deep into midfield to act as a defensive barrier high up the pitch. Campbell may have been the man to make the headlines, but a lot of credit must go to Aron Gunnarsson and record signing Gary Medel – who went a long way to justifying his £11m price tag.
The growing trend of the 4-2-3-1 formation has helped create what has arguably become the most important position on the field – the ‘double-pivot’ (think Xabi Alonso and Sami Khedira). The “2” aspect of the defensive looking formation, act as both an additional barrier to break-up play, but also help to start attacks from deep.
As can be seen from the player diagrams (below), Gunnarsson and Medel are already beginning to form a partnership in the Cardiff midfield – when one player surges forward, the other stays deep.
Medel has instantly become somewhat of a fan favourite at the Cardiff City Stadium thanks to his passion and ability to seemingly stop any attacks that come towards his sides goal. With three successful tackles, four interceptions, two defensive clearances and 28 passes, the Chilean international perfectly summed-up his all-round game yesterday afternoon, showing why Mackay was right to break the bank to get his man.
Gunnarsson meanwhile – who is still getting up to match fitness after missing a large chunk of pre-season due to a shoulder injury picked up on international duty – got Cardiff off the mark with his goal on the hour mark, following in on Fraizer Campbell’s shot to tap home.
The 24-year-old, who was the Bluebirds second top-scorer last season with eight goals, surged forward before finding the back of the net from close range. This is something which was seriously lacking during the clash at Upton Park, with Campbell simply stood alone isolated up-front. With Gunnarsson and Medel beginning to form a partnership, expect to see a lot more of this support from deep – these talented players are not in the team to simply defend, but to also attack; something we will see more of as the season develops.
There is a reason why Cardiff were such massive underdogs coming into this game: Edin Dzeko, Sergio Aguero, Alvaro Negredo, Jesus Navas… you get the point. Manchester City’s starting XI cost a combined total of £210m – some £186m more than the squad the home side had started with.
Despite this, Ben Turner and Steven Caulker put in a resounding defensive display which, as Gary Neville put it “perfectly sums up how to stop the best teams.” It would be unfair to say Cardiff parked the bus – a phrase which is seemingly used whenever a team puts in a strong defensive display – they simply didn’t allow the away side any time to breathe.
Though David Silva occasionally found space in an advanced midfield position, Cardiff, as can be seen in the defensive dashboard below, were simply brilliant when it came to protecting their goal. With Navas on the wing, Manchester City now have a true out-and-out winger, and as can be seen, they managed to get in plenty of crosses, but Turner and Caulker achieved a 100% defensive header rate, while 16 out of 19 tackles were successful. Turner did occasionally get pulled out of defence by Aguero, though overall Turner justified his inclusion over last season’s player of the year Mark Hudson. Read more…
For a player with just one season under his belt in professional football, £8.5m – a deal which has smashed Cardiff’s previous transfer record of £5m for Michael Chorpa – seems an awful lot for a relatively unknown player. Despite this, Andreas Cornelius is the latest Danish youngster to make an impression on a list of European clubs, with the Bluebirds coming from nowhere to secure his services.
ViewFromTheStands looks at what tempted Mackay to make a move for the youngster, and just why was he so sought after by a handful of fellow Premier League sides?
Cornelius was picked up by Copenhagen just two years ago at the age of 18 from Fremad Amager, at which time he was beginning to make a name for himself at international level. Firstly with the U -18 side where he scored twice in his six appearances, before moving on to U -19 level where he tallied four more goals.
Just 12 months after making the short move across Copenhagen from Amager, Cornelius made his club début in April 2012 – one of two appearances he would make for the club at the back end of the season. It would be the following campaign (2013/14) however that the 6ft 4in striker would truly shine, starting with his first goal for Copenhagen against Midtjylland on the opening day, which he followed up with another strike against Odense in a 2-2 draw.
Cornelius would go on to score 18 top-flight goals for his club in the Danish Superliga last season, making him the top scorer in Denmark at the age of just 20. This, combined with the six caps he picked up for his country – including a goal against the Czech Republic in March – has led to Stoke, QPR, Everton, Chelsea and Arsenal among others sending scouts out to the Scandinavian country to pay close attention to the youngster. Read more…
A full 69 days have passed since Cardiff City secured their place back in the top tier for the first time in over half a century, though so far there have been no new players brought in.
This may not seem particularly worrying, though with manager Malky Mackay this week hinting that certain players have turned down a move to the Bluebirds, some more realistic targets than previously listed may have to be found.
ViewFromTheStands looks at a range of the free transfers yet to find a new club so far this summer, who can help bolster Cardiff’s squad ahead of their opening game against West Ham in eight weeks time.Goalkeeper
One of the most memorable aspects of City’s promotion last season was the ability to shut-out teams and win games by the odd goal. David Marshall, who has also seemingly edged his way back into contention with the Scotland national side, was the man to thank for the positive defensive statistics.
Marshall was ever-present in what was a memorable campaign for the Welsh side, keeping a total of 18 clean sheets. There’s no question that the Scot deserves his chance in the Premier League, though what about his back-up?
That role is currently filled by former Peterborough ‘keeper Joe Lewis who managed just two starts last season – both coming in disappointing cup losses at the first hurdle. Lewis conceded twice in the opening season clash against Northampton Town, though he stood up fairly well to the aerial bombardment thrown at him by the home side.
Lewis looked to have a promising future ahead of him following a call-up to the England national side in 2008 for friendly matches against Trinidad and Tobago and the United States, though he failed to build on this and eventually fell out of favour at Peterborough under Darren Ferguson.
Whether or not Lewis could handle what the Premier League has to offer should he be called upon is open to debate, though two men who would most certainly stand up to the test are Mark Schwarzer and Lee Camp.
Schwarzer, who will celebrate his 41st birthday later this year, has bags full of experience in the Premier League, though as he edges towards retirement, one full season of first team football may be a requirement for the Australian stopper – something which Mackay can’t offer, thanks to the form of Marshall.
Lee Camp meanwhile still has time on his hands. At the age of 28, Camp made it clear he was after Premier League football when he left Nottingham Forest earlier this year after five seasons, before being snapped up by Norwich.
The Northern Irishman made three appearances for Norwich in his short stay with the Canaries, playing a full 90 minutes on just one occasion. Camp did however manage 75 minutes against Swansea, following an injury to first choice ‘keeper Mark Bunn. In that game, Camp’s goal was attacked throughout by the Swans with a total of 18 strikes towards goal – though it should be noted that the vast majority of those were off target.
Camp conceded twice, though there was little he could have done about either goal, and he can be happy with his overall performance after pulling off four decent saves. It’s clear to see from Camp’s three appearances in the Premier League last season that he doesn’t favour playing out from the back, and goes long with his passes near enough 100% of the time.
Malky Mackay has all-but ruled out bringing in a new goalkeeper this summer placing his faith in Marshall and Lewis, though with the likes of Schwarzer and Camp available on a free, he may get his head turned as we move closer towards the start of the season. Read more…
Eight weeks on from Cardiff City’s promotion to the Premier League, numerous players – some better known than others – have been linked with a move to South Wales.
As the bluebirds prepare for their first season back in the top-flight for over half-a-century, ViewFromTheStands looks at some of those who Malky Mackay could make an approach for this summer.
Upon promotion to the Premier League, it is inevitable that the odd high profile name will be bandied around. In this case, Gomis – who certainly falls under that top bracket of players of which this club has not been linked with in many a year (excluding the over-the-hill Robbie Fowler and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, of course).
At the age of 27, the French international striker has come off the back of another successful season, with 18 goals and five assists in his 33 appearances for Lyon last season. It’s form similar to that which seen him replace David Trézéguet ahead of Euro 2008 – with two goals on his début against Ecuador making him the first French player to score a brace on his full international start.
Though what about the Centre Forwards style of play? As can be seen in this snapshot (right) taken from Gomis’s last home start for Lyon against former club Troyes – a match in which the prolific forward scored twice – he likes to make a nuisance of himself in and around the six-yard-box. Though there is more to ‘baby Drogba’ than simply scoring tap-ins, with his trademark hold-up play and high passing accuracy (he completed 17 of his 20 attempted passes in the Troyes game) making him a real force in Ligue 1.
It’s no secret that Malky Mackay carries out a full check on all potential signings, with his trademark dossiers allowing him to build on the strong team spirit that has been constructed in the camp during his two year tenure. One of the negative aspects of Gomis’s game is his lack of defensive duty – something which can be highlighted using StatsZone. This time, using the final game of the season against Rennes as an example (below), Gomis’s defensive abilities in the hour he was on the field culminated in two fouls committed in and around the opposition penalty area. It could be argued that the role of the striker is to simply score goals, though in modern football being able to attack from the back and defend from the top is key – though with Malky refusing to rule out a move for the international striker when quizzed on the subject last month, a move for Gomis may still be on the cards.
Moving closer to home, and being perhaps a little more realistic, former West Ham striker Carlton Cole is another player to have been linked with a move to the Bluebirds this summer. Cole is notorious for dividing fans with his all-round ability: he can work hard for the team, bringing others into play, but as a result his goals-to-game ratio is pretty slim.
With spells at Chelsea, Wolves, Charlton and Aston Villa under his belt, Cole moved to West Ham back in 2006 where, in a seven year spell which came to an end this summer, the former England international striker managed 47 goals in just over 200 games – not a terrible record when combined with his assists tally, though a large amount of those goals came during West Ham’s spell in The Championship two seasons ago.
It was during that spell in the second-tier of English football that Cole showed Cardiff first-hand what he was capable of, being a driving force in his side’s 5-0 aggregate victory against the Bluebirds in a match that was soon forgotten due to the controversial rebrand which surfaced minutes after the final whistle blew at Upton Park. Upon the Hammers’ return to the Premier League, Cole found starts hard to come by following the loan signing of Andy Carroll – a move which incidentally paved the way for Nicky Maynard to join Mackay’s men on transfer deadline day last year.
With the odd 30 minute cameo not really being enough to judge Cole on, during his last 90 minute appearance for West Ham – a goalless draw against Liverpool at Anfield – the 29-year-old showcased his mobile ability drifting around the pitch, though in what many way encapsulates the player perfectly in recent years, his passing ability let him down (below). On the face of it a 62% pass accuracy is not exactly terrible, though with many of these passes being no more than a few yards, Cole’s ability to bring team-mates into the game appears to have diminished, and it’s no real surprise to see West Ham part company with the player. Read more…
A solid performance from England was enough to see off Wales in this derby affair between two British university heavyweights.
Wales had the better of the opening quarter of the match, with Chris Miethke bringing his strong Glamorgan form with him into the clash and creating two big opportunities for his side.
Though Wales failed to capitalise on their chances and England got a grip of the game after some tactical changes from manager Steve Guinan.
Marcus Giglio gave his side the lead after 20 minutes, with goals from Sam MacVicar and a second-half brace from substitute Joe Lolley put the seal on a resounding win for a promising England side.
Coming into the friendly clash at Jenner Park in Barry, Steve Savage and his squad – made up of players from a selection of Welsh universities – were in a positive mood having picked up a draw at home to Scotland in Wrexham last month.
This team spirit was clear to see early on when University of Glamorgan player of the season, Miethke managed to make space down the right hand side before seeing his fired-in-cross well cleared.
But England were struggling to cope with the pressure down the right, and just 30 seconds later Miethke was in the same position again – this time Wales came even closer to breaking the deadlock with the pulled back cross rifling against the crossbar, before being cleared.
Wales were playing some nice football in the opening spells, with midfielders dropping deep to collect the ball from the defence, before working their way forward. This almost paid off when Adrian Hopkins of Cardiff Met was played in at an angle, but his shot was saved down low by Jonathan North in the England goals.
Three Lions’ manager Guinan – still currently playing for Conference National side Kidderminster Harriers – could see that, with Wales constantly finding space and creating chances, this game was only going one way at this stage.
A couple of tactical changes later and England were right back into the contest, creating opportunities of their own. The first of these fell to Hakeem Araba who charged down on goal before being brought down by ‘keeper Will Fuller just outside the area.
The referee decided against sending off Fuller to the dismay of Araba, who pointed out to the referee that the Welsh goalkeeper was the last man.
This was the first sign England showed of their attacking intent, and just two minutes after the controversial decision to keep Fuller on the field, Ben Brighton found the ball at his feet inside the penalty box, but his poked effort was well saved by Fuller.
Though Wales failed to clear their lines and England continued to push on, with Giglio the man to give his side the lead. A pulled back cross was picked up by the TNS player whose dummied shot left Fuller stranded in goal, before he calmly tapped the ball home. Read more…
On the back end of the most successful summer of sport Britain has ever witnessed, it appears that football has fallen victim to the sporting bug. It was first caught in late June as Andy Murray faced off against Roger Federer and lasted through to the dramatic Ryder Cup finale at the Medinah Country Club in September.
It was an incredible few months of sport which saw tears of pain, tears of joy and every emotion in between. But come August and the start of the new football season, it appeared that many had fallen out of love with the beautiful game. The talk of dramatic finals, tense showdowns, team spirit and gold medals galore, had been replaced by diving, crowd trouble, poor refereeing decisions and claims of racism. Football was back.
The past 12 months has seen the sport dragged through the mud with a drawn-out court case to decide that John Terry had not racially abused Anton Ferdinand, though the FA went ahead and dished out a four game ban and a hefty fine to the former England player, just to show that they were trying to rectify the issue of racism – something which still lingers around the sport, despite countless efforts to eradicate it completely from the game.
With the court case slowly receiving less and less column inches, the current hot topic of football sparked back into life when England travelled to Serbia last month for an U -21 match which will not be remembered for the great defensive show from a young English side, but instead for events that showed football finds it impossible to move into the modern day.
The scenes which seen England’s Danny Rose subjected to vile racist abuse, before triggering a mass brawl, has sparked the debate back into full-swing. It led to players somewhat boycotting the Kick it out campaign by shunning the promotional shirts in pre-match warm-ups, sending out a message to the organisation that it just simply isn’t doing enough. Read more…